John McClain: No real positives in this latest Texans disaster

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Matt Patterson/AP/Shutterstock (13631511ij) Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith watches from the sideline during an NFL game against the Washington Commanders, in Houston Commanders Texans Football, Houston, United States – 20 Nov 2022

John McClain: No real positives in this latest Texans disaster

This is Thanksgiving week, so before we tear into this turkey of a team, let’s give thanks for something the Texans gave us on Sunday at NRG Stadium.

Fans should be thankful the 23-10 loss to Washington left the Texans with an NFL-worst 1-8-1 record that allowed them to remain in position to earn the first overall pick in the draft.

How’s that for positivity?

Want a couple of more things Texans’ fans should be thankful for?

No major injuries suffered even though the Commanders’ defensive line clobbered the Texans’ offensive line and shut down the running game in embarrassing fashion.

Oh, and how about Cleveland losing to Buffalo in Detroit, dropping the Browns’ record to 3-7, and enhancing the first-round pick the Texans received in the Deshaun Watson trade?

Want more? Well, let’s see – Astros third baseman Alex Bregman sat with the McNair family in the Founders Suite and received the loudest ovation of the game.

And last but certainly not least, it was the Texans’ annual Salute to Service Game, and they honored veterans who’ve served their country.

OK, now let’s start carving the turkey.

Let’s start with the first half when coach Lovie Smith’s team put on perhaps the worst exhibition in the history of pro football in Houston, dating back to 1960, the Oilers’ first season.

And I’m not exaggerating.

Washington led 20-0 at halftime on its way to a 6-5 record, including 4-1 with former Texans quarterback Taylor Heinicke starting in place of the injured Carson Wentz.

“We just got beat,” Smith said. “We were never in the game. There’s total disappointment on the effort we had – not the effort – but how we played. We’ve had some disappointing losses this year (when) we had a chance to win (but) not many where they were better than us pretty much from start to finish. We’re searching for answers, is what we’re doing.”

In the first half – with fans booing more than any time this season – Pep Hamilton’s offense had one first down, 5 yards, -1 yard passing, 6 yards rushing, and 1-of-6 third down conversions.

“Our fans deserve a lot more than that,” Smith said. “We have to put a better product on the field. It (booing) hasn’t been happening all year. Every time something is bad, fans are going to boo, and they have a right to do that.”

One reason the fans were so agitated was the offense didn’t get its initial first down until the second quarter when Mills had a 2-yard sneak on third-and-1.

Now, speaking of Mills, a bad first half is nothing new for him this season, but he hasn’t had one as wretched as Sunday.

Mills’ miserable afternoon began on the Texans’ first possession. After the defense forced the Commanders to go three-and-out, the Texans had the ball at their 32 when Mills did his best Matt Schaub impersonation.

Mills threw to the right sideline to Brandin Cooks, but cornerback Kendall Fuller stepped in front of him and returned the interception 37 yards for a touchdown. That 7-0 deficit was as close as the Texans would get.

“Offensively, when you start the first drive like that, that’s tough duty,” Smith said. “Their defense dominated us up front, and it’s pretty hard to get a running game going. It’s hard to pass the football when there’s that much pressure and, again, the takeaways.”

Mills threw two interceptions, and the Texans had no takeaways. Again.

In the first half, Mills completed 6-of-9 for 22 yards. His longest completion was 7 yards. He had an interception and was sacked three times. His rating was 30.6.

Mills finished with 19-of-33 for 169 yards, two interceptions, and a 46.1 rating – that’s his lowest of the season. His second interception bounced off the crown of Cooks’ helmet at the Washington 3, where it was picked off by safety Darrick Forrest.

Smith’s defense deserved a better fate, allowing only one touchdown and playing the run better than any time in recent games. The Commanders finished with 153 yards rushing and a 3.8 average, but they had only 115 until their last drive when coach Ron Rivera had them running out the clock.

Another example of how the Commanders dominated the Texans could be found in the running game. Washington entered the game determined to stop rookie Dameon Pierce. In the first half, he carried six times for 2 yards and finished with 8 yards on 10 carries.

Mills and Pierce weren’t the only Texans to get dominated. Rookie left guard Kenyon Green had another bad game against a superior defensive line that featured three first-round draft choices who combined for five sacks – two each by tackle Jonathan Allen and end Montez Sweat.

Green was called for holding that wiped out a first-down catch by Dare Ogunbowale. The Commanders declined penalties when he was guilty of holding and being ineligible downfield. Last week against the Giants, he had a holding call that took away a touchdown and two more that were declined.

Mills was under intense pressure for most of the game, but when he had time, he couldn’t find receivers and unleashed too many errant passes.

Smith was asked if he would consider benching Mills for Kyle Allen. Mills has 11 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. He threw 10 interceptions as a rookie last season. He’s been unable to put together four quarters of productive play this season.

“Are you asking me am I going to change the quarterback position right after the game?” Smith said. “As I said, we consider all different things during the course of the game, whether making a move at any position will give us a better chance.

“When you say it starts with the quarterback, no, it starts up front. With that type of pressure, I don’t know how many quarterbacks could have had success. I’m going to watch the video. We’re going to evaluate it like we normally do. We don’t make those kind of decisions 30 minutes after the game before I get a chance to talk to all the coaches.”

Hamilton and Mills haven’t produced a consistent passing game this season to complement Pierce’s running. The offense has been ineffective for much of the season and shows no signs of becoming more productive on a consistent basis.

“I’m not going to change,” Smith said about his philosophy. “There’s not a whole lot we’re doing well right now. We’re building. We’re not quite there yet. We’re not a good team right now, but that’s how most (rebuilding) teams start off. You keep working on things and eventually get a little better.”

Meanwhile, Texans fans will continue to boo a bad product at NRG Stadium, knowing that Lovie Smith has the same number of victories this season as the Colts’ Jeff Saturday.

(John McClain writes four columns a week for He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Monday and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on

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